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Case for adopting Industry 4.0 technologies in manufacturing and engineering to be explored at conference

Formula Goblin Racing at Scottow Enterprise Park. The NAAME conference will explore ways to address the skills gap in engineering and manufacturing. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Formula Goblin Racing at Scottow Enterprise Park. The NAAME conference will explore ways to address the skills gap in engineering and manufacturing. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The fourth industrial revolution and the productivity puzzle in engineering and manufacturing will be debated at a conference organised by an East Anglia sector group.

New Anglia Advanced Engineering and Manufacturing (NAAME) is hosting Evolution: Journey into Industry 4.0, bringing together global and regional speakers to share their thoughts and advice on how the sectors should progress in a world where worries about automation and recruitment go hand in hand.

The network, including figures from business and academia, will discuss the skills challenge which faces advanced manufacturing and engineering in Norfolk and Suffolk (one of the region’s biggest employers by sector), scaling up and international trade, and solutions provided by new technologies, as well as how the sector and its growth plans will fit into the counties’ economic strategy and the government’s industrial strategy.

Speakers include Henk Koopmans, chief executive of Huawei Technologies R&D, the largest telecommunications manager in the world; James Gillespie, export growth manager at the Department for International Trade; and Filomeno Martina, lecturer in additive manufacturing at Cranfield University.

Around 150 businesses, students and educators are expected to attend the conference at West Suffolk College in Bury St Edmunds on February 15.

Simon Coward, chief executive of NAAME and director of Hethel Engineering Centre, said: “As a region we have some real pioneers of Industry 4.0. It’s time to show-case our strengths, and support engineering and manufacturing businesses to take advantage of the digital revolution.”

A NAAME spokesman said the “journey” into Industry 4.0 would see “the application of auto-mation, digitisation and artificial intelligence come together to create faster, more efficient, and smarter production lines” – and could provide a solution to the UK’s foundering productivity.

Mr Gillespie added: “Companies must quickly embrace and adapt to the opportunities of Industry 4.0 technologies, not least because the threat from overseas competition using such innovations is growing.”

For more details go to www.naameconference.eventbrite.com

The skills challenge

The conference will also offer solutions to the skills challenge in engineering and manufacturing, the third biggest employer by sector in Norfolk.

The New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is seeking to address this challenge with a new skills strategy, working with businesses, educators and local authorities to raise students’ take-up of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects in Norfolk and Suffolk from 27% to the national average of 30% and beyond.

Martin Collison, of Collison and Associates, who has worked on the team developing the skills strategy, and chairman of New Anglia LEP Doug Field will both speak about engineering and manufacturing skills, and their importance to industry and to the local economic strategy.

West Suffolk College, where the conference is being held, is currently investing £8m in a new training facility for engineering students.

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